Residents on Quality Drive Win Battle For Sidewalks
Writer’s Note: This is a follow up from an original story that can be found here: SIDEWALK CONTROVERSY PROMPTS U.S. CONGRESSMAN RICH NUGENT TO INTERVENE
By: Danny Aiello Jr
After a five-year ongoing battle with the county, residents of Quality Drive finally have cause for a celebration.
Residents from Vista Grand, Madison Reserve and County Commissioners cut a ribbon Monday morning, signaling the opening of a 5-foot wide ADA sidewalk stretching to Mariner Boulevard.
The project cost the county $56,909 and the cement was donated by Cemex.
The project saw the completion of a road stretching from Vista Grand at Spring Hill all the way to Mariner Boulevard was headed by Arlene Sollis, a resident at Vista Grand.
Aside from allowing the seniors at the communities a path to a shopping center, the road will allow for students at Suncoast Elementary a path to the apartment complexes on Mariner as they walk home from school.
Sollis, 80, has been a focal point of this process, started with a stinging letter to the Commissioners and news outlets in 2015.
The letter read: “The commissioner’s job is to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Hernando County. They certainly are not doing their job when they repeatedly deny ¼ of a mile of sidewalk to the senior citizens at Vista Grand Apartments so we can have safe access to shopping at Seven Hill Plaza. I could not re-elect any one of them, even if he were my best friend.”Sollis’ cries went unheard and in 2016, after being told funding was not available at this time, and it was a process, she staged a rally and a passionate speech at the county meetings that drew the attention of Congressman Rich Nugent.
“Wait ’til 2018 for safe access. Wait ’til 2018 for a sidewalk. Are you kidding me? We need it now!” Sollis said in the meeting from her wheelchair.
“This is a simple project. It’s not like we are building a nuclear submarine. We are building a sidewalk,” Nugent said in the 2016 meeting.
After years of back-and-forth over the funding allocation, it seems like Sollis can rest easy now that her goal of safe travels is accomplished.
The project was slated to begin in September of 2017, but persistence from Sollis and other residents since 2012 saw the project pushed up to May where is was completed in under two weeks.
All the hostility seemed to disappear today, on what Wayne Dukes and the residents both called “A great day.”
Dukes, the Chairman of the County Commission, ushered in the ceremony with a speech thanking Solis for her hard work.
“These projects take a long time, and unfortunately never work as fast as we need them to.” Dukes said. “It’s all about finding the funds, and that is always a drawback.”
Dukes went on to thank Cemex for their donation of cement for the project, allowing it to be completed early with the help of some Republican politicians.
“By the same token we try to assess as small a tax on everyone as we can.” Dukes continued. “But this is a good day and on behalf of the board of county commissioners I’d like the really thank Congressman Nugent, Representative (Blaise) Ingoglia and Senator (Wilton) Simpson for helping expedite this project to completion.”
The trio of Republicans representing Florida, have all met or spoken with Sollis at some point over the past few years and her words hit Nugent the hardest as he made a speech at a meeting in 2016.
Congressmen Nugent attended last a County Commissioners meeting in 2016 and spoke with Commissioners to expedite the project, stating “I Implore you, I ask you, look into your hearts and see if there’s a way to help this young lady in her eighties Survive.” He went on to tell commissioners “I understand the bureaucratic process, trust me, and you all do a much better job than Washington D.C.”
Despite initial concern from Commissioner Nick Nicholson who questioned the value in disrupting the flow and potentially taking money away from projects that were already in line to receive their funding, the project was completed ahead of schedule with no major disruptions.
Nicholson said during that 2016 meeting, “We’ve been trying to fast-track this project but unlike private industry, things don’t happen that quickly.”
The only disruption happened to occur during the ceremony, as a turtle crossing the road was rescued and helped to the other side of the street by a Cemex representative.
After the completion of the sidewalk, the residents inside of Vista Grand held a reception celebrating a day with meaning to all of them.
“We were very excited and relieved because we can go safely down the sidewalk.” said Sharon Wilson, a resident at Vista Grand, “Cars don’t bother us and it gives us a lot more freedom.”
Wilson went on to explain the importance of the road and the freedom it gives the residents.
“We no longer have to worry about getting hit.” Wilson continued, “We can go out regardless if school is dismissed or still in session and it helps us a lot.”
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ™2013 – 2017 RNRF Incorporated.